First state of Moll’s Beaver Map in spectacular early color

Herman Moll, A New and Exact MAP of the DOMINIONS of the KING of GREAT BRITAIN on ye Continent of NORTH AMERICA. Containing NEWFOUNDLAND, NEW SCOTLAND, NEW ENGLAND, NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, PENSILVANIA MARYLAND, VIRGINIA AND CAROLINA According to the Newest and most Exact Observations… London: Herman Moll, [1715.].
Engraving on two sheets joined, 40 1/8”h x 24 1/8”w at neat line plus margins, vibrant full early outline and wash color. Minor soiling and staining, largely confined to edges, and some minor mends on verso, largely confined to wear along old folds. Very good.

Herman Moll’s iconic Beaver Map, depicting Great Britain’s North American colonies after the Settlement of Utrecht. Offered here in the rare first state, with vibrant early color.

The map is of great geopolitical significance,

“… noted for being among the first and most important cartographic documents relating to the ongoing dispute between France and Great Britain over boundaries separating their respective American colonies. Moll’s map focused on English counter-claims to French-occupied territories. The map was the primary cartographic exponent of the British position during the period immediately following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.” (Pritchard & Taliaferro, p. 114)

The main map depicts North America from Labrador south to the Carolinas and as far west as Hudson Bay (here “James Bay”), Lake Erie and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The British colonies are colored individually and given highly idiosyncratic boundaries, while French holdings in New France (here “Canada”) are shaded yellow. This treatment reflects the terms of the settlement at Utrecht (explained in part in a long text block in the Atlantic), in which France ceded Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and territory around Hudson Bay and recognized Britain’s supposed sovereignty over the Iroquois; while retaining Cape Breton, St. John’s Island and the right to dry fish along the southern coast of Newfoundland.

The large inset at lower center continues the depiction further south, roughly to present-day Hilton Head. That, and the inset of Charleston at lower right, are based largely on Edward Crisp’s Compleat Description of the Province of Carolina (1711).[1] Two other insets depict the Southeast and Gulf Coast and “the Principal Part of North America.” The latter uses colored shading to differentiate the claims of Great Britain, France and Spain.

For all its geopolitical significance, the map is most commonly known as the Beaver Map on account of the large view of Niagara Falls at right center. The view depicts the Falls in the background, with the fore- and middle ground occupied by dozens of industrious beavers, working “with great order and wonderfull Dexterity.” The image is not original to Moll, who adapted it from Hennepin’s Nouvelle decouverte d’un tres grand Pays Situé dans l’Amérique (1697), by way of de Fer’s Carte de La Mer due Sud / Carte de La Mer du Nord (1713).[2]

“The beaver was an appropriate image for North American maps for two reasons: the animal’s important to the fur trade and its industrious nature…. Just as many early map cartouches illustrated America as the land of wealth and opportunity, Moll’s depiction of the Industry of ye Beavers also related to promoting settlement in America. Since industry was known to produce wealth, the beaver represented what could be achieved with great order and wonderfull Dexterity.” (Pritchard & Taliaferro, p. 116-117)

The map was issued in Moll’s The World Described, the most important British atlas of the early 18th century, which went through numerous editions between 1715 and 1754. Offered here is the true first state of the map, bearing the imprint “Sold by H. Moll over against Deverux Court in the Strand” and depicting Nova Scotia in a “fat” configuration and coming to something of a point at Cape Sable. On all subsequent states of the map, Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy are completely re-engraved, with the former given a leaner outline and resembling a hammer head along its southern coast. This first state is rare, was first described only in 1989, and is unrecorded in any of the other standard sources.

In all, about the most desirable possible example of this iconic map of North America.

Cumming #158 and color plate 12. McCorkle, #715.1 (not noting this state). Pritchard & Taliaferro #19 (not noting this state). Rumsey #9729 (later state). Schwarz and Ehrenberg, Mapping of America, p. 134 and plate 78. Stevens & Tree, “Comparative Cartography,” #55 (not noting this state). For a first discussion of the true first state, see Ed Dahl, “A new early state of Moll’s ‘Beaver Map,” The Map Collector no. 47 (Spring 1989), p. 52 (and the important correction issued in The Map Collector no. 48, p. 49).